The Record Setting Journalist

The typical articles of a female journalist in the 1880s surrounded fashion, society, and gardening. Something that didn’t quite sit well at all with Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, who at fifteen years old wrote a fiery response to a mysoginistic article in the Pittsburgh Dispatch under the pen name “Lonely Orphan Girl”. The editor, George Madden, was so impressed with her work, he put out an advertisement for the author to reveal themselves, he then asked her to write an article for the paper under that same pseudonym. George was once again blown away, and offered her a full-time writing position under the name Nellie Bly.

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Nellie’s work was centered around a series of investigative articles on female factory workers, until she was pressured by George to write about typical topics for a lady writer. Angry about this, she traveled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondant. By the time she was 21, she had spent almost six months reporting on the lives and customs of the Mexican people.

In 1887 Bly left Pittsburgh and talked her way into the offices of the New York World, where she went on an undercover assignment as an insane woman to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Her case, despite it being a complete ruse, attracted media attention and was reported by the New York Sun and the New York Times.

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“THE NELLIE BROWN MYSTERY. Her Story Told from Day to Day by the City Newspapers. (From the Sun, Sunday, Sept. 28.) WHO IS THIS INSANE GIRL? SHE IS PRETTY, WELL DRESSED AND SPEAKS SPANSIH. She wandered into Matron Stenard’s Home for Women and asked for a pistol to protect herself – Is her name Marina?

Later, Bly gained even more fame after bring inspired by a novel written by Jules Verne to make a trip around the world in under eighty days. She departed Hoboken, New Jersey in November 1889, traveling first by ship, then by other vehicles such as rickshaw, horse, sampan, and burro. She completed the trip in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds. A record that was beat a few months later by George Francis Train, who completed the trip in 67 days.bly_map

Nellie retired from her investigative journalism in her 30s when she married millionaire industrialist Robert Seaman, and entered into the realm of creating and patenting her inventions. She later returned to the world of journalism, while covering the women’s suffrage movement during her and her husbands time of financial trouble.

 

Nellie Bly died of pneumonia on January 27th 1922 in New York, New York at the age of 57 years old.

The Real Leader of the French Resistance

What do you think of when you hear the words “War Hero”? You probably picture somebody in uniform, bearing arms, someone who kissed their family goodbye to go sacrifice their life for the country. I’ll bet that you didn’t picture a woman. The women were back home, holding down the fort for their boys, but that’s simply not the case. Take Nancy Wake for example, she was a leading figure in the maquis groups of the French Resistance in World War II, whose bravery, intelligence and perseverance led her to eventually become a beacon of light for not just her people, but the hundreds of prisoners she smuggled to safety.

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The Nazi Party nicknamed the Kiwi, “The White Mouse” for her ability to escape their grasp so easily. She eventually became the Gestapo’s most wanted, with a 5 million Franc prize on her head. Nancy was a fan of foul language and hard liquor, drinking all her men under the table to earn her keep. But despite her noble standing among the maquis, she was in constant danger, her men sparing German spies just because they couldn’t bear to kill a young woman, and leading the most dangerous of raids, which required her to kill a Sentry with her bare hands. Aside from all of those such things, she never gave up her efforts. Just picked up her head, and led her men.

Nancy was hunted relentlessly, but she knew the German soldiers knew nothing more than her name. So her smarts and wit made her take on many different identities, and use her gender to her advantage. Making cheeky and flirtatious comments to get passed Nazi checkpoints. When she finally was captured, she didn’t speak a word. She pretended to be the mistress of one of her maquis to escape the clutches of the Gestapo and get back to the rest of the resistance members to progress their fight.

When the Nazis started tapping Nancy’s phone and opening her mail to gain information for taking down the Resistance, she and her husband decided that France was too dangerous, and thought it best for her to make her way to Britain where he would eventually join her. As a joke she said she was “going shopping” and would be back soon, then left for Britain. However, the Gestapo thought to solve their “White Mouse” problem by knocking on her door, getting her lined up in front of the wall, and shooting her in the head. But Nancy had already left France. When the Gestapo arrived at her home, they only found her husband, whom reused to say a word about her whereabouts despite being taken captive and tortured for almost a year. He was eventually killed, and no one knew until months later. When word got to Nancy of what had happened, she was heartbroken. But she still decided to go on and finish what she started.

Nancy Wake was one of the only female Resistance members, and was one of the most decorated officers of World War II, despite the beliefs of most. Thanks to her courageousness, intellect, and determination, she got through the war and liberated France from under the iron fist of the Nazi Party. With the help of her 7,500 maquisards took down an army of 22,000, causing 1,400 casualties and suffering only 100 themselves. So, now what do you picture when you hear the words “War Hero”?

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Nancy lived on to be 98 years old, passing in 2011 with twelve honours issued by various authorities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of Steel Magnolias

My mind seems completely separated from my body. Come to our new rehearsal room, get locked out. Twice. Not even knowing where to start when it comes to building schedules and writing emails. Then before I know it, I’m me again.

5:30 rolls around and my first thought, “Alright, you girls should be starting to arrive now.” Time ticks on and next thing I know it’s six o’ clock and in floods everyone.

They went around the table, discussing what happened, and how everyone is doing. Everyone brought up what they were doing when we evacuated town, where they stayed, how they were feeling. But it was all very lighthearted. Then it came around to one person, who said that technically she lives in Edmonton. She had plans to move down there after the show, and since this happened, just decided to move now.

That’s when it really dawned on everyone. Things are different. Very different. You drive through certain parts of town and realize that no. That happened.

After some cheesy heartfelt moments, we got right into reading through our show. And all of the sudden. Things were normal. As they read through certain parts, they would bring up old jokes that came from mispronounced words, or odd actions they once made.

“Laughter through tears is my favourite emotion.”

It seems wrong to feel normal in a time like this. But it’s not. So to everyone feeling normal, don’t feel bad. Feel happy, and pass that on to everyone you meet. And to everyone having trouble dealing with things at a time like this, don’t you worry. This city is here for you, and I swear, you’ll be alright.

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Steel Magnolias will be going up August 25th-27th. If you have previously purchased tickets, you can exchange them for a new date or get a refund at the Keyano Box Office. And if you have yet to get your tickets, what are you doing?! Go grab them before they sell out!

The box office will reopen on July 18th.

The Who: Featuring.. The Who?

Sunday May 8th, my brother and I were able to attend the Who concert at Rexall Place, thanks to his awesome coworker. And holy moly.

The Who came out at around 9 o’ clock. But their openers were out just after seven, and considering the fact that we showed up at eight, it was quite upsetting.

Slydigs, they were called. And they were amazing. Four guys from the UK that landed themselves on a tour with The Who, they got a pretty sweet deal.

Throughout the night, the folks sitting in front of us were trying to Shazam their songs, which is a rookie mistake, Shazam can’t pick up live music. The footage from cameras in front of the stage were projected on the screens behind and next to the band, and it looked like a music video. People were going nuts.

By the end of their set, they told everyone to come out into the lobby after the show to come say hey. And I swear, I screamed internally a little when they said that. I was hyped to go tell them how I was originally not going to come to the concert, but was glad I did.

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Right to left: Ben Breslin- Bass Guitar, Louis Menguy- Lead Guitar, Peter Fleming- Drums, Dean Fairhurst- Vox Guitar.      Photo by Radka Dolinska

After waiting in line, I actually got to chat with the guys for a bit! A bit, being about twelve seconds… Over the noise of the delusional drunk girls talking about how much the guys loved them, Dean was the only one that could hear me, and may I say, he is the nicest person ever. He and Louis both seemed happy that someone wanted to talk instead of just snap a photo and leave, Ben and Pete seemed eager to rest.

I then got pulled into the middle to pose for a photo, which got infiltrated by a family that wasn’t happy with theirs, leaving it to a blurry mess. If only I had had five minutes. I would’ve killed to ask them more questions. And maybe get a real picture.

So, Slydigs! In the unlikely case that you see this, hit me up! We can play some music games and I can write an article to sell to some big magazine like Rolling Stone. I can also get my hands on an awesome camera and snap you some killer publicity shots. Just saying…

Listen to just one of their many awesome songs below! If you’re into Rock & Roll and the occasional Jazzy tune, I promise, you’ll love everything these guys do. And even if that kind of music isn’t your style, give them a listen.

Oh, and I guess The Who were pretty slick too..

When Your World Catches Fire

As I write this, I am sitting in traffic in a truck with my friend, her brother, and her father. Trying to leave one of the most amazing cities in the world.

When I stepped on the bus this morning, I knew I wouldn’t be having a good day. I felt terrible and I looked like a zombie. But I put on my big girl pants and went on with my life, as one does. Though I knew I wouldn’t be having a good day, I didn’t think I would flee my city in fear.

Let’s start from the beginning. This past Sunday (May 1st), a two wildfires were discovered near Fort McMurray Alberta, Canada. They weren’t terribly threatening, but not good, clearly. Things progressed on Monday (May 2nd) and residents from Gregoire and Prairie Creek we called on to evacuate their homes. By this morning (May 3rd) it was beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds, the Gregoire ans Prairie Creek residents were sent back home. I went out at lunch break with my friends, we outside from around 12:20 to 12:45, still absolutely gorgeous. But oh how quickly things change.

Around 1pm I was sitting in my English class waiting for my teacher to finish getting things set up for our lesson, I glanced over to the window and saw that the light seeping through the shades was tinted yellow. I brushed it off thinking it was just the way the sun was shining, seeing as that happens a lot, the sun casts itself on the city in shades from pink to red. Minutes later, other students were crowded around the window looking at the huge trail of pale yellow smoke coming up from a different part of town. Our vice principal called a “shelter in place” lock down, keeping everyone doing classes as usual and forbidding them from leaving the building. Everyone was generally quite concerned but our teacher assured us that if we were in danger, the school would take the necessary precautions to keep us all safe.

Fast forward to our next class, the last class of the day. We spent the entire time listening to the radio and trying to keep other students calm as their parents called and texted them saying “we’re leaving town, grab your stuff and go to the front of your school, I’m picking you up”. Eventually those kids did leave. But the rest of us? We sat there trying to make the best of the situation by chatting and listening to the radio. After a while our principal came into the class and said “Things are fine. If things were really wrong, they wouldn’t be playing this on the radio” and she turned up the volume on her computer to show some popular song was playing. Not even ten minutes later a radio host came on air and announced a mandatory evacuation for Abasand, Thickwood, and a few streets in Timberlea. By the end of the day, our teachers said “if you have a plan,  go with that. If not, stay here and we’ll take care of you until we can figure something out for you all”.

Now, my plan was to get on my bus and go home. But I’m glad I didn’t go with that, there is no way I would’ve gotten there in good enough time to be able to leave again. I went with my friend to her house. We went to our shared locker and as she cried on the phone to her father, I took her bag from her and put her sweater and things into it. We then busted our asses across the school to get our other friend and leave, I still found myself stopping to hug everyone that I knew. A hug, and a “stay safe”. Then I was gone. By the time we got out of school and over to her father’s car, the sky was mortifying. One half was a light yellowish smog, the other was just pure black. And in the middle? Those beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds.

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We dropped off our other friend, and finally got to her house. The smoke was tall. Insanely tall. Like a grey wall trying to contain us. I went inside and told her to turn on the radio and pack a bag. Hours passed, and she slowly packed her bag. By around 5pm her dads girlfriend came home, we started preparing to leave. Filling empty milk jugs and juice bottles with water, packing all the dry snacks we could muster. It was all ready. But we weren’t leaving.

We weren’t leaving because the main road out of her area was backed up all the way into residential streets. We stuck around the house. Keeping in contact with as many people as possible, hoping things would get even just a little better.

Mandatory evacuation was called for everywhere except that area. About two hours later, a mandatory evacuation was called for the entire city. And we were not moving one bit.

Now, this friend I was with? I love her to bits. And her family too! But I was getting scared. I was ready to grab a bottle and some food and hit the road. Hitchhike my way out of town. I am being one hundred percent truthful. I was thinking about it, and I was ready to do it.

Eventually, my friend, myself, and her little brother (the girlfriends son) went on a little bike ride around some streets to see what was causing the traffic jam. We couldn’t find the cause, it was too far down the line. But we got a peek. The empty streets, abandoned homes, and random items strewn across the area, It looked like something right out of The Walking Dead.

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Like a scene out of a horror movie, even though the fire hadn’t reached us yet. Three kids on bicycles riding through the streets of what seemed to be a ghost town with yellow tinged smoke for its only air. We passed through a park that was covered in ash. What was once a joyful place for the children of the neighborhood, was now a filthy mess. It’s an understatement to say that the scene was terrifying to move past.

It was around 8pm when we finally left the house. For the most part we saw cars. The whole way through, which was no surprise. But once we got downtown passed the bridge, my stomach dropped further than ever.

I had seen the footage of Abasand hill burning. And by this time it had burned out, but the aftermath is what shocked me. It was gone. The trees and the ground were black with just a few embers left here and there.

As we drove out of town, all we saw were the blackened skeletons of the once lush, beautiful trees that surrounded our city. The aftermath of the fires I never saw. The only fire we got to see was the Super 8 Motel, flames ripping through the walls and crushing the frame of the building.

They left that night with two cars full of people, food, water, technology, and some clothes. I left that night, with the pants, shirt, jean jacket, and sneakers I was wearing, as well as the items in my school bag.

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A notebook of extra paper, a planner, a notebook filled with stories and poems, an extra notebook taken from my locker, social studies notes, science notes, water bottle, Advil, Chapstick, a multitool that I keep with me (for whatever reason), a bag with pens, pencils, highlighters, and a calculator,  my braces kit, phone, my precious headphones, phone charger, and some random papers and loose change. Everything you need during an evacuation, right?

With that, we were off.

I met up with my father and my dog on the turn off from highway 63 and 881. We stayed one night in a camp and met up with my mum and brother the next day. That same day, we were able to go back to my home.

As we drove through towards our area, we had a plan. We had a half hour to get everything we needed. Take our computers, hard drives, some clothes, and anything else that we felt was important. By the end of our half hour, I had a suitcase full of scripts and stories, my computer, hard drives with my video games, drawings, and paperwork files, my Intuos Drawing Tablet, Keys, and an armful of clothes. We sped off from the house and headed towards Edmonton, where we currently reside.

It’s hard to drive away from your home and think that you may never be able to come back. At least not to the same place you once knew. I know now that I am very lucky to have been able to go home one last time and grab things, to have finally gotten together with my family and my dog, and I am very lucky that I am safe, and didn’t really witness the flames in person. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected me.

I honestly didn’t think that I would become so paranoid after this. And I don’t seem to be the only one. I’ve heard quite the stories from the folks on Facebook. One person taking a detour while driving because he saw a firetruck, another person having just enough luck for a fire alarm to go off at his hotel within the first few days after the evacuation, another person seeing all the little white fluffs falling from the sky and thinking “it’s raining ash”, and myself, seeing a small cloud of smoke and thinking that another huge fire had started, or being paranoid when a firetruck, ambulance, or police car on the street.

Along with unnerving things like this, I have seen a few somewhat reassuring things as well. When I left school, the last thing we had talked about in Social Studies was Japanese culture, in the Edo and Meji periods specifically.

The traditional religion of Japan is called Shinto. Shinto is a mix of Buddhism and Confucianism, and is based around love and respect for nature and the higher powers that control it. In the Shinto religion, Haikus, which we know as poems, were more a sort of prayer. They were typically about nature, and directed to praise these higher powers, or Gods. My teacher had actually made us write Haikus about nature to present to the class,

Terre ensoleiller

Cerisiers dehors en fleur

Belle dans la lumiere

Which translates roughly to “Sunkissed earth, Cherry blossoms in bloom outside, Beautiful in the light”. Many Haikus are written about cherry blossoms, because they are believed to bring new beginnings. And oddly enough, I have seen tons of cherry blossoms around Edmonton and surrounding cities. My brother and I had been going for drives every day to get out and do something, and everywhere we went, I saw cherry blossoms. Next to the sidewalk, peeking over fences, lining the streets.. Everywhere. I’m not one to believe in that stuff, but it gave me a good feeling after seeing them.

Our second week of being here, my brother had to take his car to the dealership to see if they could fix up some problems he was having. He drives a Mitsubishi Lancer. The Mitsubishi Mascot, happens to be a Samurai.

The Samurai were of great importance in Japan. Everything they did was for honour. Honour for themselves, their families, and their country. They are defenders of the public. They are center of the warrior class, above the Ronins, and below the Diamyos. Despite being fourth in the full ladder of importance, they are the strongest of all. They may not have been the most respected, that position being taken by the Emperor and Shogun, but the Samurai deserved the most respect. They worked under others to keep the lands safe and prosperous. I think this is too much to be a coincidence. The people of Fort McMurray are like the Samurai. Strong, resilient, and powerful. The cherry blossoms I’ve been seeing, they’re directed at us. We will be okay.

 

What do you think about it? Share your evacuation experience below.

 

The Imperfect Perfection That is The Arts

Theatre isn’t  the only artsy thing I do, along with that, I am also a digital artist. Now, that title makes it seem more serious than it is, but that is definitely not the case.

In my previous post “The Ridiculous Things About Schools” I spoke about how the “Arts School” I attend, offers only five arts-oriented classes. One of them being a graphic arts class. That’s what started this. That graphics class was the only thing that appealed to me, and luckily, was one of the two classes that was taught really well.

Now, I really enjoyed that class. I enjoyed it so much, that drawing and editing in Photoshop became one of my favourite hobbies. The things that come from it can be amazing, once you get the hang of the tools at least.

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Taissa Farmiga – Hand drawn in Photoshop CS6 – March 2016. Clearly I am still working on how to create realistic pieces.

 

Now, this post is titled “The Imperfect Perfection That is The Arts”. The perfection being art, and the people behind it. The imperfect part being the exclusion, I have found, in the area of physical art pieces.

Now, I’m new to the idea of showing my work to anyone but my dog and maybe my mother. But lately I’ve wanted to submit pieces to the open art calls in my area, and that’s where I first saw these little challenges I would have to conquer to have my work seen.

“Must be an original piece, no prints or copies.”

That is straight from one of the submission requirements lists of an open art call. My confusion here is that work like mine, it has no original. No physical copy. Unless I submit and sell a file, which I doubt would happen. It must be a print.

“Must be sole intellectual property of the artist.”

I understand that. Plagiarism in any form is not fun. And then if someone made a profit by copying your work? Even worse! But if I took a photo from a public site like Google, an image listed under the filter of “labeled for commercial reuse with modification”, will I really not be allowed to submit it? If you think about it, by those rules, someone taking items from their recycling bin and turning it into a sculpture is against the rules as well.

Taking something that already exists and changing it to make it into your work? Amazing! What a great idea! What a beautiful concept!

Taking an image and editing the heck out of it in Illustrator or Photoshop to make it into something cool?  Absolutely not! That is terrible and you can and will not put it on display or sell it!

By that logic, you are excluding an entire genre of art. Limiting the choices that the curators have for community galleries, is telling the public that this whole method of creation is nonexistent.

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This piece matches along with a little ol’ story that came about a few months ago. “Run Rabbit Run” it was called. And so this takes the same title.

This trippy thing was made using advanced selections of the colour channels from a drawing by an unknown artist (taken from Google under a properly licenced file from an anonymous contributor).

The original was a simple black and white sketch. After making a selection from a random colour channel, I deleted the background and copied the layer four times. Filling each one with a different colour. Blue, green, and two in white. As well as unlocking the background layer to create the gradient green and purple backdrop.

Now tell me. With the amount of work put into this simple piece, should it not be treated the same as a painting? Time, effort, and creativity went into it. The original image was listed as “Labeled for commercial use with modification” Meaning that anyone has the right to modify and use it, so there is no copyright infringement or plagiarism here. So why can’t my work, and the work of other graphic artists, be seen as equal to that of someone who works in traditional art forms?

Cara D - FInished

 

For those of you who care to see more of my work, or want to slap it on your wall or the back of your phone; the pieces featured here, and a few more, will be up on my Society6 page later this month. And if you like things enough to want something created just for you, shoot me an email at natalie.janine@hotmail.com, or direct message me on social media.

 

The Ridiculous Things About Schools

Class conversations, I have found, are most often quite black and white. Because that’s the way we are tested. We are “taught” about different topics. Empires and wars of the past, the path and composition of light, ratios and how to calculate tax on a purchase (but not how to actually do your taxes), and how to analyze writing pieces. Then, handed a paper and told to regurgitate it back to our teachers. And as long as you can repeat what you’ve been forced to memorize, you pass your classes with flying colours. But if you would rather have a discussion about it or test it to see and understand in your own head, you are brushed off and not given the time of day.

A very good friend of mine, doesn’t get amazing grades. But once we all go on lunch break after class, the most intelligent things in the conversation come from him. Because he is comfortable with us, our little friend group. We always give each other the floor and let each other ask questions. And during our short, ten minute conversations, we learn more about the subject than we ever would in class. Because of this, the living calculators don’t give him the time of day. Just two weeks ago, this friend of mine seemed to have all the right answers. Every question our teacher asked, he knew. But these so-called “smart kids” just laughed every time he opened his mouth.

Kids like us.. The ones who don’t learn anything by reading notes and watching a monotone ex-science professer gab on and on in a YouTube video, are pushed to the side by not only our educators, but our peers as well. If you just show how something works, with an image or a demonstration, and let a discussion happen, your students are sure to actually understand it.

We’ve been taught to think that book smart is the only smart. That if you can’t read it and repeat it, you aren’t intelligent. The only thing I’ve learned is that you’re either a genius, or an idiot. But that’s just not true.

In language arts classes, we are given a piece of writing, then asked what it means. Not, “What do you think this means?” Just, “What does this mean?” then told that you’re wrong for not having the same opinion as the person who made the answer key for your test.

Those pieces of writing we are given, that is an art in its own. So how can there be one right answer to the question of what it means? Unless you ask the author themselves, which I’m sure no one is doing, how is there one right answer? Shouldn’t we be taught how to be independent with our thoughts? Shouldn’t we be learning to acknowledge our thoughts as well as see things from another point of view?

Art is subjective. And should be thought provoking. Art is supposed to make you question things. So why don’t schools let their students do just that?

I go to an arts school. So why isn’t creativity treasured more? Why is it that when I go to pick electives each semester, there are only five arts oriented classes out of almost twenty in total? A general art class, a graphic arts class, a photography class, a choir, and a drama class. And why is it that only two of them are taught well, two of them are just okay, and the other one is complete garbage? Why isn’t there a class focused on writing? On tech theatre? Why do we have a vocal teacher running a drama class?

I have had this conversation with multiple people before. And the answer to those questions is because we get our government grants for the “amazing arts programs” we are supposed to have, but the people who control that money, fund it all into sports. Just, sports. There is so little money funded into the arts program, that one of my best friends can’t go compete with the choir, because her family just moved into a new house and can’t afford the five hundred and fifty dollar fee for her to go. And she’s not alone. Barely any of the students are going, because none of them can afford it.

The real question with that is, why does each student even need to pay this ridiculous amount? Pitching in for the hotel, paying for their own food, fair enough. But the only thing that would’ve needed to be paid to the school, is the hotel fee. Now, I don’t know exactly what that money is going to, I can really only assume. But nevertheless, out of the 100 some-odd kids that were supposed to go on this trip, would each one really need to pay over five hundred bucks?

The most insane part about that is that we get these grants for the arts programs, so that every student has a chance to participate in something amazing. Well, something that should be amazing.

Now, put aside the “arts” factor. With any school, anywhere, the majority of the money is put into sports. Schools want a good reputation as the winning team so that they can recruit every kid that has ever wanted to play sports professionally, with the promise that each and every one of them will get a scholarship. Which, if you’re playing on a winning team, yeah. Scouts will be watching, and it is likely that some will get those scholarships. Keyword: Some. Out of the hundreds of thousands of kids that apply, and that the Ivy League schools are watching, how many of them will get it? I don’t mean to be negative, but really. How many? Schools recruit these kids so that they can funnel money right out of their pockets with false promises.

If we used our grants for what they’re meant to be used for, and encourage (encourage, not force) students to get involved in sports, arts, and science, maybe students would respect their teachers more. Maybe we wouldn’t wake up every day feeling like being in a coma would be better than having to endure another day at school.

How are students expected to take things seriously and respect their teachers when most of the time students aren’t even treated like real people? I know that seems harsh, but every word and feeling behind it is true. Trust me.